The High-Tech Carbon-Capturing Tractor Putting Money in the Pockets of Canadian Farmers

January 20, 2021

Welcome to the “Road Trip Across BC” series from the CORE Cleantech Cluster, where we explore innovative companies across various regions in British Columbia. In this week’s article, we highlight Acterra Tech, a cleantech company in the heart of the Okanagan Valley – Vernon, BC.

Tilling the Soil … and Making Fertilizer

At first glance, it looks like the typical picture you’d see in any of the thousands of farms across Canada – a farmer on a tractor tilling a field.

But if you look a little closer, what you’d see is something far from typical. You’d see something 15 years in the making, something innovative, exciting, and potentially game changing in the world of agriculture.

It’s a technology from BioAgtive and Acterra that captures diesel emissions from a tractor, adds microorganisms to the mix, and makes fertilizer as it goes – not only preventing carbon from being released into the atmosphere, but also sequestering it in the form of a microorganism-rich fertilizer.

This combination of nitrogen-fixing and phosphorus solubilizing bacteria together with fermenting fungi, actinomycetes, and yeasts enhances soil and root vigor, increases nutrient uptake, optimizes crop yields, and builds soil organic matter.

“Carbon and microorganism are the future of agriculture. The best way to sequester carbon is photosynthesis and a plant, and this regenerative, fully circular process puts carbon right back in the ground,” says Ralph Lett, CEO of Acterra.

Bold Thinking and Big Opportunities

The CORE Cleantech Cluster is a model of collaboration designed to accelerate the major institutional, industrial and technological change required to achieve both climate goals and shared economic prosperity. Through our outreach programsresearch, and publications, we are actively working to encourage these types of collaborations and reduce time-to-market for much needed clean technologies, such as innovations in regenerative agriculture.

In the CORE Cleantech Cluster’s recent roadmap report on the agriculture and food sector, we found that the big opportunity for BC was to become a leader in carbon sequestration, climate change mitigation, and regenerative, profitable agricultural practices.

The Food Security Task Force report published by the Province of BC in February 2020 not only recommended that BC develop an agritech strategy to “support B.C. farmers to transition to lower carbon practices through technology and innovation” but also advocated for ‘bold thinking’.

This co-developed solution from Acterra and BioAgtive meets all those criteria – it’s bold, it’s innovative, it’s regenerative, and it’s profitable.

(Yes, profitable – by reducing reliance on conventional fertilizers, which can be costly, the technology puts money right back into the pockets of Canadian farmers.)

Farmers & Carbon Sequestration – The Time is Now

With the federal government’s recently announced plans to increase Canada’s carbon tax to $170/tonne in 2030, large industry players are actively looking for ways to offset that upcoming tax burden through partnerships with innovators and early adopters of technologies that can prove their ability to capture and sequester carbon.

“The day Canadian farmers get paid for sequestering carbon will be a game changer. Protocols for that are being put in place in the US, and Canada needs to keep up,” says Lett. “Once that happens, and farmers are back in the driver’s seat, getting paid what they’re worth, we’ll see regenerative agriculture and sustainable practices skyrocket at the farm level.”

A growing body of research is showing that regenerative agriculture practices could be a major solution to climate change due to the CO2 sequestration capacity of soil.

Technologies such as the tractor-turned-fertilizer-producer offered by Acterra and BioAgtive have a pivotal role in helping farmers to adopt regenerative practices that not only increase their autonomy and profitability, but also play an important role in meeting Canada’s climate goals.

Putting money in the pockets of farmers and putting carbon back in the ground – that could change the world of agriculture.

Are you a farmer looking to know more about this technology? Acterra/BioAgtive run weekly online meetings and Q&A sessions. Contact them today to find out more.

Download The Road to 2050 – Bridging the Gap Between Challenges and Solutions in Agriculture and Food for a list of program recommendations that would ensure farmers benefit from these emerging technologies.